Council adds street harassment to Calgary public behaviour bylaw in unanimous vote

Calgary city council has voted in favour of changing the public behaviour bylaw so that perpetrators of street harassment can be fined up to $500. 

Starting June 1 perpetrators could face fines up to $500

A public awareness campaign will be launched before the bylaw takes effect. (The Canadian Press)

Calgary city council has voted in favour of a new bylaw addressing street harassment, which will come into effect on June 1. 

The bylaw amends an existing one that deals with public behaviour.

The amendment was first passed as a motion in December 2020. lt provides for perpetrators to be fined up to $500. Repeat offenders could see increased fines. 

City administration defined street harassment as "unwelcome comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation, and that are disrespectful, demeaning, alarming, and/or insulting."

Mayor Gondek offered her congratulations to city council for passing the amended bylaw unanimously. 

"It warms my heart to think that all of us actually understand that keeping Calgarians safe and [helping them feel] that they live in a welcoming city is a priority."

Need for bylaw 'discouraging'

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner noted that while she was glad city council was in support of the bylaw, the need for such a penalty was discouraging. 

"In many ways I feel like we're past the point of educating about ignorant and offensive behaviour… The fact that [it] continues is disheartening and frustrating," said Penner. 

An awareness campaign will be launched before the bylaw takes effect. Penner said she hoped that public education would focus on how to report offences, bystander intervention and help and support for victims. 

In the coming months, the city will work alongside CPS to train officers on issues relating to the sensitivity of harassment complaints and discretion in the use of the bylaw. 

So far, the city has no formal mechanism in place for street harassment complaints, but said victims could report incidents using 311. 

Penner offered an apology to those who had experienced street harassment in Calgary and called for public support to help make "systemic changes in our city." 

"We are looking to you to be part of the solution."

With files from Scott Dippel


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